Concrete, steel, brick and glass are rising up out of a 48-acre pasture just south of the Astrodome in Houston. But this is not just another commercial or residential development in this growing city and Texas’ largest city; it’s a vision to change the trajectories of thousands of lives.
Cornerstone Community℠ is under construction in Southwest Houston. The vision of Star of Hope, a historic ministry to Houston’s homeless, Cornerstone Community will be a “transformational campus” for homeless families when its first phase is completed in 2017, said Star of Hope President and CEO Hank Rush.
“We’ve been providing services to the homeless for 109 years, but we asked, “’How could we do it better?’ We dreamed of a place where people can come and have basic services like emergency care, recovery services, personal development, job skills and placement. So why don’t we build a community and invite some ministry partners to go further?”
To achieve the dream, Star of Hope sought out partners to help create a continuum of services that would not only provide short-term solutions to homelessness, but longer-term answers to prevent it from reoccurring and to lift families from generational poverty. Among its choices: Buckner International and New Hope Housing Inc., a well-known Houston provider of life-stabilizing, affordable, permanent housing with support services for the homeless and those living on very limited incomes.
Star of Hope finalized a partnership with Buckner in 2013 that includes the construction of a Buckner Family Hope Center as well as a Buckner Family Pathways program as part of Cornerstone Community℠, undergirding the desired range of ministries that can lead people to becoming economically self-sufficient.
“We see this project as a broad continuum of services for our families,” said Betty Nunnally, Star of Hope’s vice president of programs. “Once you have provided families with children with housing, what happens to them when they leave our program? Here they’ll be able to utilize the services of Buckner. We’re aligned; our vision is the same for the families and is anchored by strong Christian values.”
Buckner President and CEO Albert L. Reyes, agreed. “What excites me most about this partnership is how three organizations, each with different models of ministry, were able to map out a complete continuum of services, fitting the strengths of each together like a puzzle.”
By partnering with two well-known Houston ministries, he added, “Buckner will be in a stronger position to better serve Houston than we ever would have been on our own.”
The Family Hope Center will provide area families experiencing poverty, family issues and a lack of services with family assistance and community events; equip families through education, financial empowerment, child and youth development and spiritual development; and elevate families through family coaching, counseling and spiritual enrichment. It will be the fifth Hope Center in Texas and the second in Houston.
Family Pathways, which is slated to be located within one of New Hope Housing’s residential areas on the east side of the campus, will provide single-parent families housing, access to child care assistance and a variety of other services. Family Pathways programs protect families from domestic abuse, financial uncertainty, homelessness and hopelessness.
“We began talking about Family Pathways and Family Hope Centers and our approach to working with families,” said Randy Daniels, Buckner vice president for program development. “A huge piece of that is affordable, safe housing and the dignity that comes with that. Hank and I talked about housing, and about partnering with New Hope.
“As we’ve talked to New Hope Housing, first through Star of Hope then directly, we found a same mind. In fact, we’ve found Houston to be innovative, with organizations willing to take some risks. I think God brought us together with the right people and the right model of services for this partnership.”
Joy Horak-Brown, president and CEO of New Hope, agreed. “There is a marvelous confluence of interest between these three organizations to create an internal continuum of care where families can enter in an emergency or by seeking programmatic assistance through Star of Hope, then to have affordable permanent housing right there on site through New Hope, and Buckner there to provide the critical programming supports, together we are lifting families out of generational poverty.”
“I’ve traveled all over the country looking at housing models for the homeless and those at risk and I have seen nothing else like this,” she said. “I’m convinced by our three strong non-profits joining forces, we’re creating a unique, cutting edge national model that’s replicable.”